If your baby’s head is growing in an odd shape, the Stollery Children’s Hospital’s Pediatric Head Shape Clinic team can help.
Carolyn Shinbine, a surgery registered nurse (RN), and Wendy
Beaudoin, a nurse practitioner (NP) for pediatric neurosurgery, lead a
group of RNs, occupational therapists and physiotherapists.
Every Monday, patients referred by health-care practitioners come in for screening. Carolyn examines babies and identifies surgical cases that Wendy or a neurosurgeon must see.
Most patients have a flattening of the head due to positioning, which can be corrected with crib adjustments and repositioning strategies, such as “tummy time” -- placing babies on their abdomen for exercise periods.
“This information helps babies recover and grow out of the deformity,” Carolyn says.
However, some babies requires surgical correction. When the skull prematurely fuses (craniosynostosis), a surgeon can operate to prevent misshaping. Uncorrected, the condition can worsen as the child grows. In a small number of uncorrected cases, children will develop an increase in the pressure on their brain, leading to severe headaches and visual impairment.
The earlier Wendy identifies surgery candidates, the better – which she’s helped the clinic with for the past decade, making presentations and spreading the word.
If the problem is detected in the first three months, babies may be candidates for a less invasive procedure called endoscopic synostosis repair.
“Kids younger than 18 months recreate their own bone,” Wendy says.
“Afterwards, parents often say, ‘If I had known how easy this was
going to be, I wouldn’t have spent so many hours lying awake
Although the screening occurs on Mondays, the clinic can be flexible. When a Northern Alberta couple drove five hours to the Stollery Children’s Hospital’s emergency department, they showed up on a different day of the week.
Carolyn was working in another clinic when the emergency department called her about the couple. The staff had discharged the baby, and the parents started home, hoping to get an appointment on another day. Carolyn phoned them and told them to return, saving them another 10-hour round-trip.
She and Wendy examined the child that day, and she then paged the neurosurgeons. They arranged for corrective surgery within days.
“Always at the forefront for me is: What is the best interest of that child, and what is the best interest for that family?” Carolyn says.
The two nurses are bound by mutual respect.
“Wendy provides her contact information to parents so they can reach with questions and for reassurance. She is such a kind and empathetic nurse, and her patients always smile when they see her or run up and hug her,” Carolyn says.
Wendy praises Carolyn’s professionalism and skill in “educating both
patients and other health care professionals about the importance of
early intervention in head shape-related issues.”